In many circles today, there is a debate taking place on whether or not to attach the honorific of "great" to Pope John Paul II.
It goes without saying that for now, any label given is strictly done so by movement of a large body of the faithful.
No official statement has been made by the Church in this regard. Fr. Koterski of Fordham University once noted: "Something like that would take it to another level…(referring to a statement by the Church) This title comes by acclamation by the church. People are already using it. It now must stand the test of time."
Perhaps it has already happened! Pope Benedict XVI, in his first address as Pope, uttered these words: "After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard."
In addition, this same "honorific" has been attached to John Paul by such high ranking Ecclesial Cardinals as Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Angelo Sodono (in writing), and not to mention further, L’Osservatore Romano (regarded by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as the "genuine face of the Church"), and the larger sphere of Catholic faithful.
Pope John Paul, as the chief teacher of the faith and guided by the Holy Spirit issued the New Catechism, the revised Code of Canon Law, and the revised Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches; he wrote 39 major teachings covering the whole spectrum of doctrine, morals and spirituality; and he gave countless other addresses and speeches.
He wrote 14 crucial encyclicals, not to mention his larger work of the theology of the body, which many argue makes up more than 70% of the Church’s Teaching on the sexual identity of the human person.
Pope John Paul II emphasized the universal call to holiness and thereby the sacramental life which begins at baptism. He went to weekly confession urged others to open themselves to the infinite mercy of God in the sacrament of penance.
In his last encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," he encouraged devotion to our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and the reverential offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Pope John Paul was a staunch defender of Christian morality: He unequivocally taught the sanctity of life from conception until natural death, the dignity of the person and the sacredness of marriage and marital love- even when speaking out against national leaders in their very presence. It can be well argued that he laid the groundwork and foundation for Summorum Pontificum.
As the successor of St. Peter, he sought unity in the body of the Church, making 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy. He canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,342 blesseds, knowing we need examples of holiness to inspire us.
Pope John Pal II was devoted to the Blessed Mother whom he mentioned at the close of each encyclical and to whom he entrusted his life, having the motto, Totus tuus after being shot in the abdomen due to his prolific role against communism.
Many attribute his work to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe through his incitation of a peaceful revolution in Poland.
In his life, he taught us how to live and die with Jesus. One can, and should rightfully call him, Pope John Paul II, the Great.
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